All posts by Jeff Cottrill

Aircraft modifications went undocumented before 2013 crash

WEST CRACROFT ISLAND, B.C. – The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) has concluded that undocumented modifications to a small float plane may have indirectly led to a fatal crash that killed three people, including the pilot, on October 24, 2013. The TSB investigation found that several alterations had been made to the aircraft before it left Port McNeill, B.C. that morning. Since nobody had documented the effects that these changes would have on flight, the plane may have performed in unexpected ways that the pilot could not control, leading to the fatal accident on a small island in Potts Lagoon, West Cracroft Island. “The aircraft experienced an accelerated aerodynamic stall while being flown at an altitude from which recovery was not possible,” read the TSB’s report, which was published on Feb. 25. If multiple modifications to an aircraft are made “without adequate guidance on how to evaluate and document the effects on aircraft handling,” the report added, “pilots may lose control of the aircraft due to unknown aircraft performance.”

Manitoba WCB announces $1 million in grants for oh&s research

The Workers Compensation Board of Manitoba (WCB) is awarding eight grants totalling $1 million to various organizations and projects in and out of the province this year, to support innovation and research in occupational health and safety. The grants are an annual funding project through the WCB’s Research and Workplace Innovation Program (RWIP).

“The main purpose of it is to really increase our capacity, our knowledge and our ability to make workplaces safer, to enhance successful return to work and to help employers in the workplace in terms of meeting the mandate,” explained Alice Sayant, the WCB’s vice president of strategy and assessment services as well as the vice president in charge of RWIP. “The Board makes available a million dollars for projects that are connected to either workplace safety and health or compensation in some way.”

The Board announced this year’s grants on Feb. 23, while listing the recipients in its annual report for 2014. RWIP is awarding this year’s grants in three different areas – training and education, scientific research and special funding. Among the 2015 recipients:

  • SAFE Work Manitoba – $300,000 to form and implement new industry-based safety associations;
  • Study by the University of Manitoba and the St. Amant Research Centre in Winnipeg – $180,000 to research gaps in workplace knowledge transfer;
  • Study by the University of Waterloo, Western University in London, Ontario and the Institute for Work & Health (IWH) in Toronto – $127,098 to research fatigue and back pain in Manitoba truck drivers; and
  • Occupational Rehabilitation Group in Winnipeg – $89,580 to develop training seminars on mental health in the workplace, for the construction, manufacturing and service industries.

Grant recipients are selected via a lengthy screening process that lasts several months, Sayant said. After parties apply, their proposals each undergo a peer review, before an internal screening group of WCB senior management examines the top choices. Then the continuing applications go to a subcommittee of the WCB’s executive group, and then to a WCB committee that oversees the program. The remaining few proposals, typically between six and eight, go to the board of directors for final approval.

“It’s a pretty intensive process,” said Sayant.

RWIP was established in 2009, as a replacement for a similar previous program. Requested funding typically exceeds the funding available by a ratio of five to one, according to information from the WCB.

Sayant said that the program had been very successful, although not of all the results were easily measurable. “The grants are of all sorts,” she noted. “They go all the way from research-oriented grants that increase the body of knowledge, to very practical shop-floor kinds of grants.” While the latter grants have resulted in decreased injury rates in specific workplaces, “we’ve had others that we know contribute to the body of knowledge, strengthen the culture, but are harder to measure.”

The RWIP 2014 annual report also noted several past funded projects that had since been completed. These included projects through the University of Manitoba, the Centre for Education and Work in Winnipeg and IWH.

The report is available online at

Conference on preventing workplace violence in Toronto

The Ontario Hospital Association (OHA) is hosting a one-day conference, Workplace Violence: Prevention and Intervention, on March 27 at the OHA’s headquarters in Toronto. This event is intended to raise awareness of workplace violence, especially in healthcare facilities, and to provide tools to create safe, respectful workplaces. Among the topics explored will be violence prevention, hot-button legal issues, codes of conduct and addressing domestic violence in the workplace. Speakers include Glenn French, president of the Canadian Initiative on Workplace Violence, and Rob Devitt, president and CEO of Toronto East General Hospital. For more information, visit A brochure with more details can be downloaded at

Safety Service Nova Scotia hosts annual conference

Cutting Edge Safety, the annual workplace health and safety conference hosted by Safety Service Nova Scotia, is back this year. The conference will be held at Halifax’s World Trade & Convention Centre from March 22 to 24. The organizers expect to feature more than 50 exhibits showcasing new products and services in the oh&s field, as well as safety experts, with more than 40 speakers from across the country, including N.S. Minister of Labour and Advanced Education Kelly Regan. The event will also include a “Mock Auction” and is affiliated with a two-day Canadian Registered Safety Professional preparation course taking place at the Prince George Hotel from March 21-22. More information is available at; to register, visit

Forklift accident claims life of worker at B.C. packing plant

WorkSafeBC is currently investigating the death of a worker who was run over by a forklift in a packing plant in North Delta, a bedroom community in Greater Vancouver, on Jan. 20.

The incident occurred at the Cratex Industrial Packing Ltd. plant on the afternoon of that day. According to A/Sgt. Sarah Swallow, media relations officer with the Delta Police, officers responded to two 9-1-1 calls at about 2:30 p.m.

“When our officers arrived on the scene, they found a 36-year-old man that had been run over by a forklift,” said A/Sgt. Swallow. “From what I understand, it was sort of one of the more industrial-sized forklifts.” First responders tried to help the worker, but he died at the scene, she added.

The police found no evidence of any criminal nature to the incident. “It looks like it was just a really, really tragic accident,” said A/Sgt. Swallow.

WorkSafeBC received notification about the accident through its prevention line at 2:57 p.m., according to Trish Knight Chernecki, the organization’s senior manager of media and government relations. The police immediately handed the case over to WorkSafeBC as an oh&s investigation.

Chernecki confirmed general information, but could not provide further details. “Because it’s under investigation, all we know is the initial action request. That’s all we have,” she said. The victim’s name has not been released publicly.

This was the second death from a forklift accident in the area since October, A/Sgt. Swallow said, adding that industrial accidents involving forklifts and similar vehicles are not uncommon there.

“Certainly a lot of the industrial accidents we do go to do involve some sort of vehicle backing up,” she said. “The forklift is usually backing up or making a backwards turn.”

WorkSafeBC’s website contains multiple resources for employers and workers about forklift safety. “Injuries do occur with forklifts,” said Chernecki, “and it’s been something that we’ve been wanting to build public awareness about.”

Among the safety tips that WorkSafeBC offers regarding the operation of forklifts around other workers:

  • Keep a clear view of the travel path;
  • When vision becomes blocked, slow down and sound the horn;
  • Drive at a speed that allows you to stop safely and easily;
  • When another worker is crossing the travel path, stop the forklift and lower the load to the ground until the way is clear;
  • Never raise or lower the load while the vehicle is in motion; and
  • Whenever possible, keep the forklift well away from other workers.

Cratex was founded in 1975 and currently owns a large warehouse and manufacturing building in North Delta.

Supreme Court: law banning RCMP from bargaining was unconstitutional

The Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) has overturned an old law that prevented the RCMP from forming independent labour organizations, stating that the rule was contrary to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

In the landmark decision, delivered in Ottawa on Jan. 16, Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin wrote that the Charter’s guarantee of freedom of association gives all Canadian workers, including RCMP members, sufficient choice and independence to pursue their interests via collective bargaining.

“The current RCMP labour relations regime denies RCMP members that choice,” McLachlin concluded, “and imposes on them a scheme that does not permit them to identify and advance their workplace concerns free from management’s influence.”

Canadian law implemented collective bargaining in federal public service with the Public Service Staff Relations Act in 1967, but the act excluded RCMP members from bargaining. The current Public Service Labour Relations Act, enacted in 2003, also excluded the RCMP from the process. The only form of employee representation that RCMP management recognized was the Staff Relations Representative Program (SRRP), a non-unionized labour relations system in which workers could raise any issues except wages.

“This is not a case of a complete denial of the constitutional right to associate,” wrote McLachlin. “Rather, it is a case of substantial interference with the right to associate for the purpose of addressing workplace goals through a meaningful process of collective bargaining, free from employer control.”

Jason Tamming, spokesperson for the federal Ministry of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, told COHSN that the ministry was in the process of reviewing the Supreme Court’s decision. The ministry is in charge of the RCMP and other national security services. “We thank RCMP officers who work hard every day to keep Canadians and their communities safe,” Tamming added.

Rob Creasser, media representative with the Mounted Police Professional Association of Canada, described his reaction to the SCC verdict as “over-the-moon happy.”

He said that the decision would give RCMP officers a much stronger voice in determining their work conditions, including salary and benefits. “The court made a really strong statement in their ruling,” he added. “I’m hopeful that with the Government of Canada, we can draft legislation that will allow RCMP members to do pretty much everything that every other Canadian police officer in Canada does.”

Creasser noted that the SRRP had shown no interest in changing the status quo in terms of collective bargaining. “The association that I joined in 1994 has been working steadily over the last 21 years to get where we are today.” Volunteer associations in Ontario and Quebec helped to pave the way, he explained.

Under the new rules, RCMP employees are now free to form their own independent associations without management interference. But the judgement stopped short of specifying that the RCMP could form its own union.

“The search is not for an ‘ideal’ model of collective bargaining, but rather for a model which provides sufficient employee choice and independence to permit the formulation and pursuit of employee interests in the particular workplace context at issue,” McLachlin wrote. “Choice and independence do not require adversarial labour relations; nothing in the Charter prevents an employee association from engaging willingly with an employer in different, less adversarial and more cooperative ways.

“This said, genuine collective bargaining cannot be based on the suppression of employees’ interests, where these diverge from those of their employer, in the name of a ‘non‑adversarial’ process.”

The SCC’s judgement is available online at

Nurse assaulted at Toronto’s CAMH in wake of oh&s charges

Less than a week after Ontario’s Ministry of Labour (MOL) filed charges against the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto, regarding a violent incident last January, the facility experienced yet another patient assault against one of its employees.

On Dec. 23, the MOL filed four counts against CAMH under the province’s Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), relating to an assault that occurred on Jan. 12 of last year. CAMH is facing charges, as an employer, of failing to:

  • provide proper information, instruction and supervision to ensure the safety of a worker;
  • take every reasonable precaution to protect an employee from violence;
  • establish and implement sufficient measures and procedures to protect workers from the risk of violence; and
  • establish safety measures and procedures in writing.

“A nurse was attacked by a patient while carrying out observation rounds,” said MOL media representative William Lin, describing the incident that led to the charges. “The first court appearance is to be heard on February 5th.”

Another nurse was critically injured at the facility on Dec. 29, when a patient pushed her down to the floor and punched her in the head repeatedly. “The worker was transported to St. Michael’s Hospital, and a police report was filed by the employer,” explained Lin. “We assigned an inspector who immediately contacted the workplace.”

According to Lin, the MOL didn’t receive notification of the Dec. 29 incident until the afternoon of the following day. Section 51(1) of OHSA requires employers to report critical injuries to the ministry “immediately.”

Rani Srivastava, CAMH’s chief of nursing and professional practice, confirmed that the MOL had visited the worksite on Dec. 31. “We had a really good meeting with them, and at this point, we’re just continuing to work with them very closely,” she said.

Srivastava could not provide further information on the Dec. 29 incident, due to the ongoing investigation. But she expressed disappointment that the MOL had charged them for the previous attack.

“Everyone at CAMH was very shaken by that particular incident,” she said. “I feel for the nurse that was attacked, who was hurt, as well as her colleagues who were also harmed, whether they were directly involved in the incident or they were witnesses. We know that physical violence can happen.”

Linda Haslam-Stroud, president of the Ontario Nurses’ Association (ONA), noted that there had been 453 incidents of physical assault or abuse at CAMH over the 2013-14 fiscal year alone. “Violence is not part of our jobs, and it shouldn’t be accepted as part of our jobs,” she said. “If we’re going to reduce the incidences of violence, it can’t be kind of an after-the-fact type of resolution. We need to be putting measures and procedures, obviously, in place on a proactive basis.”

Ontario has seen an escalation of violence in healthcare facilities, she added, citing similar attacks and assaults at the Southlake Regional Health Centre in Newmarket (COHSN, Dec. 15) and a nurse stabbing at the Brockville Mental Health Centre.

“Part of ONA’s strategy for the upcoming year is a renewed violence strategy that will be encompassing everything,” explained Haslam-Stroud, “right from the communication of the issues to the public, to working with the government, to trying to ensure that our joint health and safety committees are fulfilling their obligations.”

CAMH has also been taking steps to counter workplace violence, according to Srivastava. Last year, the facility formed a committee consisting of its own team members and reps of unions, clinical operations and human resources, aiming to create a safer work environment at CAMH. “They’re coming together to discuss ideas, explore solutions and see what strategies or what ideas can come from that,” she said. “They’re looking at their own ideas; they’re looking at what other organizations are doing.”

The facility also plans to revise its debriefing processes, improve training and education for staff on preventing and handling aggressive patient behaviour and provide emotional support for traumatized employees, Srivastava added. “Patient safety and staff safety are really important things to us, and they go hand in hand.

“That includes caring for our staff, and the only way,” she said, “is if we’re able to work together and have that dialogue about, ‘How do we make sure we’re providing the best possible care, in an environment that supports our staff in the best possible way?’”